ABC/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 81 mins .
E . PAL
The richest football club in the world, as well as one of the best supported, Manchester United are also one of the most hated clubs in the world. There are many possible reasons for this hatred - United fans will automatically claim the only reason is jealousy. Fans of other clubs, however, will point out that the majority of Man Utd fans are not even from Manchester, many have never even been to Old Trafford, the team’s home ground, let alone seen them play other than on television. There are other factors such as being sore losers, a superiority mentality and an arrogance and contempt for other teams. Granted, they are a big and well supported club that has a trophy cabinet bursting at the seams and a playing staff that many clubs envy, but the simple fact remains, is the reputation of Man Utd supporters warranted or not?
As most fans will testify, why even have a reason for hating them? They will surely reel off a number of reasons, including any one mentioned earlier, but truth be known, hating Man Utd is as much part of football for non-fans as loving them is for their own supporters. For any Aussie fans out there that still don’t get it, just think of Collingwood in the AFL, hated with a passion by those who don’t support them and loved with even more passion by those that do. The similarity is not exact though, because people who hate Collingwood are actually jealous, but you get the idea. (Spot the bloody Collingwood supporter... - Ed.)
Love them or hate them, there is no disputing the success they have achieved over the last decade at least. The fact that the club that everyone wants to beat just keeps getting better is not only great for them, but also great for other teams. In the first decade of the English Premier League, Man Utd set new standards in football in England, becoming the team of the ‘90s and other clubs had to try and match them or fade into insignificance. Thankfully for the league, teams such as Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle and Chelsea have followed suit, investing huge amounts of dosh to reach that standard. To a degree this has created a somewhat elite Premier League with only two or three teams realistically expected to win the title, however the injection of money into many clubs means that the league will only get stronger and more competitive as time goes by.
This documentary takes the viewer behind the scenes at the club during the 1999/2000 season, following their successful treble-winning campaign of the previous season where they clinched the League, FA Cup and Champions League titles. It begins with a flashback of archival footage to the Munich air disaster which saw the majority of the “Busby Babes” killed, giving a small insight into the club's history. It also looks at fans from Northern Ireland, China and New York and they even manage to find some from Manchester. There is also a focus on the business side of the club, showing what a huge corporation it really is.
It covers the many events that occurred during this season, with the ill-fated trip to Brazil for the World Club Championships getting extensive coverage. Many fans still disagree with the club's choice to relinquish entry into the FA Cup competition in order to go to South America, feeling that the club could have fielded a reserve team in the early rounds to progress, something other fans see as arrogant, however Man Utd fans truly believe they are that much better than everyone else that they could have fielded a second string team and still won.
Players featured include David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville, Andy Cole, Teddy Sherringham, Mark Bosnich and Ole Gunner Solskaer, along with interviews with Alex Ferguson and past great Bobby Charlton. Other players are featured, but it is the previously mentioned players that get more screen time and offer the most interesting comments.
For fans of the Red Devils this is a great film. For those who are not fans it is not as bad as expected. It is certainly full of self admiring, however to see players and managers we have all come to loathe in this scenario shows us that they are human after all, some of them even likeable.
To sum this film up best is to say it is not a history of the club crammed into 81 minutes, rather it is an interesting documentary that looks at the club during one season. There is not too much in the way of actual game highlights, although there are some, this is more about what goes on behind the scenes. The access to areas seen by many fans as sacred, such as dressing rooms or a private trivia night with just the players and staff, gives everyone a great look at how these superstars spend their time away from the constant spotlight of the media and fans.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced, this transfer is generally quite good. Sharpness is strong for the most part, with only the odd occasion of poor shadow detail. Colours are vivid and nasties such as aliasing and film artefacts are minimal and should not interfere with your viewing pleasure. There is some archival footage used, which of course shows its age, but generally the overall transfer is quite nice. This perception could also be attributed to this reviewer expecting a made for television special rather than a theatrical release. Subtitles are supplied in English for the hearing impaired and are off the mark on more than one occasion. An example of this is when an Arsenal fan passing a bar in New York is asked why he hates Man Utd fans, his actual response is “none of them are from Manchester” whereas the subtitles states “they are from Manchester”. The layer change occurs at 65:08 and is well placed so as to cause little disruption.
Audio is supplied in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, which is a nice surprise for a film of this nature. The majority of sound is dialogue - be it from interviews or commentary - so the need for surround use is not truly warranted, however it is still a nice inclusion. Dialogue is always clear with synch never being a problem. Supporting music is well placed and comes through loud and clear, as does crowd noise. There is not too much in the way of separation or directional effect, however this type of feature really doesn’t require it. There are no problems with hiss or dropout and the subwoofer is fairly dormant throughout.
There are a couple of extras supplied with this release. First up is a theatrical trailer which runs for 1:45 and is the same aspect ratio as the main feature. Next up is a collection of interviews. This feature contains chats with Alex Ferguson (this is spelt Furguson in this area for some reason), Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and David Beckham. All interviews are quite interesting and a nice addition for fans. Lastly is a director’s commentary featuring director Bob Potter and editor Paul Doyle. It's hardly the best commentary ever produced and it is filled with many long pauses, however it is still a welcome inclusion.
Overall this is really a release that will only interest fans of Man Utd, although it isn’t as nauseating as expected for a non-fan. As long as you don’t expect a season highlights collection, you should find this reasonably interesting as it gives the viewer access to players and areas that are not normally shown. The video and audio are both of a good quality and a small collection of extras round off the feature nicely. Many fans will prefer to purchase a release featuring goals and match highlights and care little about the behind the scenes antics, for those this may only be worth a rental.